Navigation Links
550 million years ago rise in oxygen drove evolution of animal life

Researchers funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) at the University of Oxford have uncovered a clue that may help to explain why the earliest evidence of complex multicellular animal life appears around 550 million years ago, when atmospheric oxygen levels on the planet rose sharply from 3% to their modern day level of 21%.

The team, led by Professor Chris Schofield, has found that humans share a method of sensing oxygen with the world's simplest known living animal - Trichoplax adhaerens - suggesting the method has been around since the first animals emerged around 550 million years ago.

This discovery, published today (17 December) in the January 2011 edition of EMBO Reports, throws light on how humans sense oxygen and how oxygen levels drove the very earliest stages of animal evolution.

Professor Schofield said "It's absolutely necessary for any multicellular organism to have a sufficient supply of oxygen to almost every cell and so the atmospheric rise in oxygen made it possible for multicellular organisms to exist.

"But there was still a very different physiological challenge for these organisms than for the more evolutionarily ancient single-celled organisms such as bacteria. Being multicelluar means oxygen has to get to cells not on the surface of the organism. We think this is what drove the ancesters of Trichoplax adhaerens to develop a system to sense a lack of oxygen in any cell and then do something about it."

The oxygen sensing process enables animals to survive better at low oxygen levels, or 'hypoxia'. In humans this system responds to hypoxia, such as is caused by high altitudes or physical exertion, and is very important for the prevention of stroke and heart attacks as well as some types of cancer.

Trichoplax adhaerens is a tiny seawater organism that lacks any organs and has only five types of cells, giving it the appearance of an amoeba. By analysing how Trichoplax reacts to a lack of oxygen, Oxford researcher Dr Christoph Loenarz found that it uses the same mechanism as humans - in fact, when the key enzyme from Trichoplax was put it in a human cell, it worked just as well as the human enzyme usually would.

They also looked at the genomes of several other species and found that this mechanism is present in multi-cellular animals, but not in the single-celled organisms that were the precursors of animals, suggesting that the mechanism evolved at the same time as the earliest multicellular animals

Defects in the most important human oxygen sensing enzyme can cause polycythemia - an increase in red blood cells. The work published today could also open up new approaches to develop therapies for this disorder.

Professor Douglas Kell, Chief Executive, BBSRC said "Understanding how animals - and ultimately humans - evolved is essential to our ability to pick apart the workings of our cells. Knowledge of normal biological processes underpins new developments that can improve quality of life for everyone. The more skilful we become in studying the evolution of some of our most essential cell biology, the better our chances of ensuring long term health and well being to match the increase in average lifespan in the UK and beyond."


Contact: Nancy Mendoza
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council

Related biology news :

1. Team awarded $7.5 million to identify potential drug candidates to treat nicotine addiction
2. CIC to Raise $2.2 Million in Financing and Announces Changes in Management
3. NIH awards $6.4 million to Case Western Reserve School of Medicine researchers
4. $5.1 million Army-Md. alliance speeds university research to market
5. $4.3 million DARPA grant enables development of biological and chemical threat detector
6. MU plant genome research receives $3 million boost from National Science Foundation
7. Up to 20 million euros for Munich Catalysis research cooperation
8. Researcher explores the evolution of largest mammals over the past 100 million years
9. $1.6 million to take forward breakthrough research in heart disease
10. NIH awards $10 million to advance microneedle patch for flu vaccination
11. Aeras awarded €11.7 million ($16 million) grant from Dutch government
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/23/2015)... GOLETA, California , October 23, 2015 ... and SensoMotoric Instruments (SMI) announce a mobile plug and ... captured during interactive real-world tasks SensoMotoric Instruments ... of their established wearable solutions for eye tracking and ... behavior captured with SMI Eye Tracking Glasses 2w ...
(Date:10/22/2015)... (NASDAQ: SYNA ), a leading developer of human interface solutions, ... 2015. --> --> Net ... over the comparable quarter last year to $470.0 million. Net income ... $0.62 per diluted share. --> ... 2016 grew 39 percent over the prior year period to $56.9 ...
(Date:10/22/2015)... , October 22, 2015 ... "Company"), a biometric authentication company focused on the growing ... wallet announces a one year collaboration with well-known celebrity ... ) ,      (Photo: ... member of NSYNC from 1995 to 2002, Joey was ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna Zentaris Inc. (NASDAQ:  AEZS) (TSX: ... behalf of the Toronto Stock Exchange, confirms that as ... no corporate developments that would cause the recent movements ... --> About Aeterna Zentaris Inc. ... --> Aeterna Zentaris is a specialty biopharmaceutical company ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... This fall, global software solutions leader SAP ... states to develop and pitch their BIG ideas to improve health and wellness in ... for votes to win the title of SAP's Teen Innovator, an all-expenses paid trip ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , November 24, 2015 ... market research report released by Transparency Market Research, the ... at a CAGR of 17.5% during the period between ... Market - Global Industry Analysis, Size, Volume, Share, Growth, ... non-invasive prenatal testing market to reach a valuation of ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , Nov. 24, 2015  Twist Bioscience, ... that Emily Leproust, Ph.D., Twist Bioscience chief executive ... Healthcare Conference on December 1, 2015 at 3:10 ... in New York City. --> ... . Twist Bioscience is on Twitter. Sign ...
Breaking Biology Technology: